September 8, 2012 by Kiara Savage
Immediate relevance is sometimes the strongest source of motivation for people. Lack of immediate relevance often results in apathy or leaving that twenty-five page paper assigned at the beginning of the semester to the night before it is due. Let’s be real. It happens to the best of us. When professors assign sections of the paper to dates throughout the semester, students are less likely to procrastinate.
Resident Assistants can take the same approach when planning boards and programs. When brainstorming topics, it is often advantageous to consider what’s happening and relevant. So what is happening? Here’s a list of immediately relevant topics for students at William and Mary:
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama will address the William and Mary community on the virtues of human compassions. What an amazing opportunity for our community! Let’s have another real moment, though. Many people do not know much more about the Dalai Lama than the fact that he is one of the world’s most renowned and influential spiritual leaders. RA’s can create bulletin boards and plan programs that will educate their residents prior to hearing him speak on Wednesday, October 10th. The board could be interactive, making it both a board and a program. On the board, leave a large blank space and attach a writing utensil by string. Invite your residents to write down things they know about the Dalai Lama. As they walk by and read the board they can learn from each other. Of course, you will want your board to have more than just blank space. Use your creativity and the wonderful resources in the PRC to make your board stand out.
- It is an election year! Duh! Even though Election Day is not until November 6th, the recent Republican and Democratic conventions and the debates coming up in early October make the election immediately relevant. Not to mention the fact that the last day to register to vote is October 15th. Your board could highlight the dates associated with the election leading up to the election. Additionally, it could share key points of each party’s platform. As for a program, there is this really cool website that asks you questions about key issues that come up in the campaigns and uses your answers to tell you with which of the six presidential candidates (yes, there are other candidates besides Romney and Obama) your political views align best with. Invite all of your residents to visiting the site (http://www.isidewith.com/). If they feel comfortable, ask them to report the issue that matter most to them. You can display these results on a board on the hall. For a more involved and active program, you can host a debate viewing party and bake cookies in the shapes of elephants and donkeys! Prior to hosting such an event, you will need to make a judgment about whether your residents of different political views can be respectful of one another.
- It is so easy to get caught with classes and meeting that students neglect healthy habits like exercising, sleeping, and eating. These issues will be relevant all year long. Sometimes the best way to stay on top of those things is to have friends or people in your living community to hold you accountable. Going to the gym together and regular meal dates might help with holding each other accountable. Make it a competition! Create a board on which residents can report how many minutes they exercised that week, how many servings of fruits and vegetables they ate, and how many hours of sleep they got. Point values can be assigned and a prize can be given to the winner at the end of the month. This would be an easy, ongoing program and board. Two cool websites you can share with your residents are http://sleepyti.me/ and f.lux (Google f.lux). The first site tells you what time you should fall asleep based on the time you want to get up so that you have a good night’s rest. The site considers 90 minute sleep cycles. Waking up in the middle of a cycle causes you to wake up sleepy and groggy. Waking up in between cycles allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and alert. The f.lux application is downloadable. It automatically decreases the brightness of your computer screen over the course of the day. Staring a bright screen late at night often causes us to stay up later than we should.
You’ll find that is not terribly difficult to figure out what is immediately relevant. Talking to your residents is a great way to learn about what is going on with them or what matters to them. Also, as a student of the College, I bet it would be pretty easy for you to figure it out on your own. Of course, the PA’s are always down for a good brainstorming session. We have made it our mission to help RA’s with their programming more than we have in the past. Remember that we are here for you so use us! I am sure we can learn lots from each other J